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Persuasion not Domination

I haven't read his book yet, but I did listen to an extensive interview with Fareed Zakaria where he discussed "The Post American World".  My main exposure to Fareed has been on The Daily Show, where he is a frequent guest.  I always liked his viewpoint.

Fareed's new book is about how America finds its place in a new world where there are many powers, not one superpower.  With the ascendancy of China and India, the resurgance of Western Europe, and the US bogged down in Iraq and with some internal issues, the US has lost a lot of influence over the past few years.  I don't think we can get this back by flexing our muscles.  Instead, we must change our approach and be the 'Chairman of the Board', as Fareed describes.

One of the best lines from the interview (and probably a quote from the book) is that the US must lead by persuasion, not domination.  We have lost our power of persuasion and have tried to get our way by being the bully.  We'd be much better off, and much safer, with a persuasive and inclusive approach.  We need to be engaged with the world and building coalitions, not demanding that we get our way.

I think that this is one of the most important meta-trends in our country.  One of my main criteria in deciding who I am going to vote for in the Presidential election is "which candidate is best able to change the perception of the US in the world and lead by persuasion?"  Hint: Talking about being in Iraq for 100 years or obliterating Iran probably disqualifies you.

Another good line from Fareed: When other countries are looking out for their self-interest first, we call it nationalism.  When we look out for our own self-interest first, we call it patriotism.  I think that what we need to do is  to persuade people that all of our interests are actually aligned.

This theme particularly resonated with me because our new investment firm, Sempre Management, will also require us to use the power of persuasion with our active, hands-on investor approach.  We like to think that we are pretty good at persuasion.


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Has Obama run his staff well? It does not sound like a boss that anyone would enjoy working for unless you enjoy being thrown UNDER the bus. See ABC News.


While I voted for Obama in the primary based on the lure of hope(whatever that means?), I intend to support McCain in the Fall.

As for the tone that you refer to:

When there was partisan divisiveness on the pending approval of Bush's nominated judges, 14 senators (7 from each party) came together to be the Gang of 14 to resolve the stalemate. McCain was 1, and 0bama and Clinton were not. On so many issues McCain has teamed effectively with Democrats(Kennedy, Lieberman, Feingold, and so on.)

The partisan bickering that exploded in the Clinton years is what most despise. Only John McCain has risen above the nonsense with moderate, non-partisan leadership to help lead this country. Obama was a Senator for 1 year before running for president and his voting record is the most extreme liberal(surprisingly his rhetoric does not match is history).

I think that the President sets the tone. They aren't the only ones responsible for our image, but they have the greatest ability to set our image and to change our image.

Just because Clinton and Obama each have strong support among Democrats doesn't mean that they aren't good leaders or that the party won't largely unite behind the nominee.

Your deciding factor in selecting a president, the question "which candidate is best able to change the perception of the US in the world and lead by persuasion?" has an implied presumption behind it -- that is that the cause of the negative perception of the US *is* the president.

Perhaps you (and Zakaria) might entertain other alternatives? Maybe the rest of the world dislikes the US because we're the only superpower. We're the richest country in the world. And we *can* impose our will on the rest of the world. Or maybe, if you're European or Russian, you're still pining away for the times gone past when you were the leader of the world. Or maybe if you're an islamist, you're trying to recreate the Caliphate?

Perhaps you might think back to the last 2 Democratic presidents. During Clinton's 8 years, we suffered 11 major terrorist including an attempt on the WTC. Was the hatred behind these attacks inspired by Clinton? Was the hatred that inspired (and still inspires) Iran to take 53 hostages for 444 days at the US embassy caused by Jimmy Carter?

Going back to your question, how can either Clinton or Obama, neither of whom can even persuade a majority of their own party to follow them, persuade the rest of the world?

I don't think we'll ever totally agree, but will concede your point on McCain's 100 years in Iraq. That was a cheap shot. I know that his intent is a peace-enforcing, welcome presence, probably most like South Korea.

My point on persuasion is mostly about rallying support for our position among the rest of the world, rather than purely negotiating directly with our enemies. Although, if we can develop some level of trust with an enemy, we need to negotiate with them. We had many summit meetings with the USSR throughout the Cold War. And, that was when we were each pointing many nuclear missles at the other.

Since you asked, I'm supporting Obama. I am hungry for as big a change as possible. Although Obama is short on executive experience, he has done a great job running a large scale campaign. I think that he is thoughtful, intelligent, and able to move the country in a different direction. I am hopeful that he'll build a strong team. To me, the President's main jobs are to build a strong team of executive branch leaders, set the tone both inside the government and with the American people, negotiate with world leaders, and make the tough calls when necessary. I think he's capable of doing all of that. Although McCain and Clinton have more experience in the Senate, it's not clear to me that either one of them has run much more than their office staffs, either.

Sorry, I don't buy your logic on this one.

1) It is intellectually dishonest to mischaracterize McCain's comment. It is dishonest by Obama and many partisans to portray his comment inaccurately. Watch the video and read the transcript he was not talking about combat, but rather having a continuing presence similar to what the USA has today in Korea and Japan(60 years later) and Germany, France and other places.

2) Comparing the biz strategy of your startup company to defending and protecting the country is too big a leap. As far I know there is no one trying to kill you in the office, none of your suppliers may taint or terrorize what they ship to your office, and none of your employees may turn out to be drugged suicide bomber that will blow up you and your family? In business you may or may not do business or partner with another firm, and persuasion is a key factor. However, our foreign relations are overwhelmingly done with persuasion... but, when you have terrorist organizations and leaders that are publicly committed to kill you, destroy all Western interest, and wipe Israel off the map it is different.

With stakes so high, you need to have someone who has the experience and legitimacy to run the executive branch government.

Are you supporting Ralph Nader or Obama?

Certainly, a first term US Senator, i.e. 0bama, with no track record of building coalitions will fail. See Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick as most recent example. Plus, he started his political career at the home of a terrorist that actually killed US citizens(including a Boston cop). His including Rev. Wright as his spiritual advisor is troubling since it speaks to his lack of judgement. I am sorry but persuasion is not calling someone a "typical white person" as Obama did recently, or condescending language to others.

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